Join Jayne Demakos, Music-Thanatologist and long time hospice worker and The Rowe Center to embark on this enlightening journey, where music becomes a bridge between worlds, offering comfort, connection, and a dignified passage at the end of life.

Navigating the Journey: Music's Role in End-of-Life Care

In the moments that mark the end of a life’s journey, music emerges not just as a form of solace but as a profound companion guiding the transition from life to death. The gentle vibrations of a harp, the soothing melody of a voice, reach beyond the realm of mere comfort, touching the essence of the human spirit in its final stages. This is where the sacred practice of specially delivered music can come into play, a beacon of light in the dimming hours of life. There is an ancient understanding that music holds the power to heal, providing emotional, spiritual, and physical relief to those on the threshold of passing and the loved ones who stand by them. Beyond the confines of traditional care, it can open a door to a space where the soul may express the inexpressible, easing the passage with dignity and grace. As we explore the intertwined paths of thanatology and music at the end of life, we uncover the layers of meaning and relief they bring to the sacred process of dying.


Understanding The ‘Death and Dying’ Advances in our Culture


The thrust to better understand and support experiences of the dying was pioneered by such figures as Dame Cicely Saunders and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. In creating the first hospice and understanding the unique suffering of the dying, they provided the possibility of a death where aspects of the whole person were supported: emotional, spiritual, psychological, psycho-social, and physiological. Thanatology is one field that has emerged from their committed and long term work. Thanatology aims to demystify death, providing a better understanding and reducing the fear associated with this inevitable part of life. Thanatology encompasses a broad range of studies, from the biological mechanisms of dying to the emotional and spiritual experiences of those nearing the end of their lives and their families. Along with modern hospice, thanatology, through study and advancing the ‘death and dying’ conversation in our culture, seeks to improve the quality of care for the dying and to ensure dignity in death.


The Emergence of Music and End-of-Life Practices


In the later half of the last century, a number of complementary modalities for the use of music at the bedside of the dying have emerged: music therapy with an emphasis on hospice; therapeutic music and therapeutic harp; and especially music-thanatology. Music-thanatology is a subspecialty within palliative care developed by Therese Schroeder-Sheker who founded the first school of music-thanatology some forty years ago. Music-thanatologists use the harp and voice to create an environment of serenity and introspection, addressing the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the dying. This practice involves prescriptive live music that responds to the immediate condition of the patient, aiming to alleviate symptoms such as pain, anxiety, and respiratory distress, and to foster a sense of peace and well-being. Music-thanatology is specifically tailored for individuals in the final stages of life, providing a unique form of companionship through the medium of music.


What this Means for the LayPerson


Music-thanatology (as with all the fields involving music and medicine) is a professional field requiring in-depth study, internship and certification. However, there is much a lay person can begin to understand and implement using common sense and guidance from these fields. Just as a mother, who without thought of skill or self consciousness, knows how to hum and sooth her child, we can begin to deepen into a capacity offering a similar comfort to those who are dying. It asks for thoughtfulness, paying attention, sensitivity, voice and a willingness to have something of a transparent self able to serve. We all have deep wisdom available and ready to emerge for the care of the dying both as professionals and lay people.


Benefits of Music in End-of-Life Care 


The inclusion of music in end-of-life care can have transformative effects. It helps in managing pain and discomfort, reduces feelings of loneliness and fear, and assists in the expression of feelings that words alone cannot convey. A skillful and thoughtful use of music at the bedside of the dying offers a non-invasive form of support that complements medical treatments and enhances the quality of the remaining life. It also provides a meaningful way for families to connect with their loved ones, facilitating moments of shared beauty and solace amidst the challenges of saying goodbye.


Learning and Growth through Music and End-of-Life Care


Recognizing the profound impact of music at the end of life, The Rowe Center offers an online course titled “Music at End-of-Life: a Caregiver's Guide.” Led by Jayne Demakos, certified Music-Thanatologist. The workshop is designed for caregivers, clinicians, and anyone interested in integrating music into care for those at the end of life. This online course covers the practical aspects of music and end-of-life care, including self-care for caregivers, understanding the end-of-life journey, and the specifics of using music to support the dying and their families. It is an opportunity to learn from a seasoned practitioner and to develop skills as a lay person that can enhance the care provided to those nearing the end of their lives.




The journey towards life's end is a profound experience, marked by a complex interplay of emotions, physical changes, and spiritual questions. Music as a companion to the dying person’s journey offers a compassionate and meaningful way to support individuals and their families during this time. For those interested in exploring the depth and breadth of music's role in end-of-life care, The Rowe Center's course presents a valuable opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute to the well-being of others in their most vulnerable moments. Whether you are a caregiver, a medical professional, or simply someone drawn to the healing power of music, this course invites you to deepen your understanding and practice of music as a complementary care modality, enriching the lives of those you serve.


Join Jayne Demakos, Music-Thanatologist and long time hospice worker and The Rowe Center to embark on this enlightening journey, where music becomes a bridge between worlds, offering comfort, connection, and a dignified passage at the end of life.